Saturday, September 11, 2010

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? IT DOESN'T MATTER.

I mentioned before the argument some make that media cannot control what people think, but can control what people think about.

Over the last few weeks journalists have followed the absurd case of a radical American pastor who said he would burn copies of the Quran on September 11th. This man is the head of a tiny church of around 50 members, yet with his silly stunt he has commanded global media attention and sparked bitter arguments between left and right. Should he burn the Quran? Should he be allowed burn the Quran? Is he endangering American troops by provoking Muslims?

It doesn't matter, it is a non-issue. One man. Fifty followers. 1.57 billion Muslims. In himself he is impotent, only the complicity of media has given him clout.

The debate about the morality and legality of this incident supports the idea that media cannot decide what people think - since there are dissenting views on the issue - but can help determine what people think about. Every inch of newspaper spent discussing this is wasted not discussing greater issues.

Sometimes the only right comment is no comment: wading in with another opinion simply stregthens the narrative that this incident matters while other world events do not. So it may be wiser not to engage this subject at all, but rather to discuss more important things and deny the pastor the attention he craves.


  1. Er, in all fairness Shane, you kind of ruined your own arguement there by the very existence of this post. Now go on off with you and write about famine or genocide, something much more worthy of your commentary.

  2. Hahaha you are EXACTLY right Gobby! I'm adding to the noise! :(

  3. Sorry my dear but I couldn't resist pointing it out! Nicely written piece though.

  4. this loony seems quite similar to the westboro baptist church, me thinks their ridiculous views makes them newsworthy, as it becomes easier to slot them in the stupid and "bad guy" category and refute their views, while the same may not be true for someone with more nuanced and moderate views on the same side of the issue would be difficult to refute.

  5. Good point Rohan, these characters may be useful for pro-Muslim or anti-conservative groups, to tarnish the arguments of those critical of Islam. I remember reading some right-wing journalist who argued that the extreme (and sometimes ludicrous) commentator Glenn Beck helps to convince American left-wingers that the right-conservatives are idiotic conspiracy theorists. Beck, he said, plays a role in converting some to rightist views, but also in delegitimising right-wing views to leftist observers.


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